DANCE | Black Label Movement on grass at the Southern Theater: Cult-like chanting, spastic motions, and animalistic chaos

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Twin Cities dance company Black Label Movement sprang into their third season at the Southern Theater last Friday with the world premiere of artistic director Carl Flink’s Field Songs, a piece examining the effects of urban societies encroaching on rural ones. The production was conceived in collaboration with the BLM “movers,” with a great deal of on-the-spot improvisation. The result is that each performance is a completely unique experience.

Field Songs centers on two areas of the stage, one grassy turf and one paved tile. The directness of the urban vs. rural dichotomy was surprisingly literal, since the avant garde dance troupe generally seem to prefer a bit more mystery. The setting does set the theme in such a way, however, that allows the movers plenty freedom of interpretation. On Friday their interpretations involved a great deal of spastic motion, some cult-like chanting, and what appeared to be barely controlled rage.

field songs, presented through june 7 at the southern theater, 1420 washington ave. s., minneapolis. for tickets ($22) and information, see southerntheater.org.

Most of the action takes place on the grass, the movers there presumably depicting the rural societies. While the rural dancers twist about in animalistic chaos, on the paved side of the stage a girl serenely tends to plants in a cordoned-off garden while Flink himself calmly lounges nearby. The result appears to equate the rural/urban split with a split between anarchy and order—a theme that doesn’t exactly portray rural societies in the most positive light. Regardless, the movers’ unpredictable motion and turbulent interactions make for an irresistible spectacle—even if at times you feel like you’re watching a funny farm. Local band the Jinnies provide a folksy bluegrass live accompaniment.

BLM’s 2009 season also features works by members Leslie O’Neill and Edward Bruno Oroyan, in addition to two of Flink’s older pieces. O’Neill’s Trigger is described as a dance designed to trigger moments in the audience’s various memories. It features a lone dancer who shuffles around like a walking corpse, which made me think more of The Ring than of any memories from my own life. Oroyan’s piece Golf Ball Hunting is a much more conventional work, featuring five movers’ fast-paced urban-oriented moves over a trip-hop beat. It was also an audience favorite, drawing rousing applause. In addition, Flink’s heartrending pieces Lost Lullabies and A Fractured Narrative for a Sad Ending are performed. The former was inspired by the dichotomy between Flink’s infant child and images of the Iraq War, and the latter by the memories leading up to the death of his sister. Not happy themes, but touchingly portrayed onstage with well-chosen musical accompaniment that includes songs by Bright Eyes and Sigur Rós.

Jon Behm (jonbehm@gmail.com) is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.

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